Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s government-owned investment company, has appointed Lim Boon Heng as chairman, replacing S Dhanabalan.
Lim joined the Temasek board last year after retiring from a 30-year political career that included senior cabinet positions and leadership of Singapore’s trades union congress. He will take up the new role on August 1.
Like Lim, Dhanabalan was also a former cabinet minister. He is retiring as Temasek’s longest-serving chairman after 17 years in the job, and will become an honorary adviser after stepping down.
The chairman role is a non-executive position, but CEO Ho Ching said in a statement that Dhanabalan had provided a “strong moral compass and wise counsel”, adding that “his personal values and professional principles embody the Temasek ethos”.
He has presided over a strong period of growth. During the past 10 years, Temasek has generated an annual total shareholder return of 13%, though recent years have fallen below that trend.
Earlier this month, Temasek’s 2013 review showed that its portfolio had grown to a record S$215 billion ($173 billion), an increase of S$17 billion from the previous fiscal year. Total shareholder return was 8.86% for the year, which was an improvement on the 1.5% of the previous year.
Notable investments during the year included stakes in AIA, Ping An Insurance, ICBC, Alibaba Group, Olam, Matahari Putra Prima and Matahari Department Store.
Lim does not have a financial background and is unlikely to have much direct input on investment decisions. He started his career at Neptune Orient Lines and later served on the board of Singapore Airlines. As chairman, he will help Temasek “to remain relevant in a volatile world”, as Dhanabalan puts it.
During his parliamentary career, Lim was deputy speaker of parliament from 1989 to 1991. He took on his first ministerial appointment in 1991, representing trade and industry, and went on to hold several cabinet positions in the Singapore government, including in the prime minister’s office, until his retirement from politics in 2011.